Tampa AirFest takes to sky, brings high flying thrills

Tampa, Florida -- It's the first Tampa Bay AirFest at MacDill Air Force Base since November 2011.

And while some of the jets were going 1,000 MPH, cars coming to the base were a different story.

Many families saw at least part of the show from behind the wheel of a car.

"You can feel the energy in the air with all the people ready to have a MacDill AirFest. The down part of it is, everybody wants to come to MacDill AirFest," said the deputy chief for public affairs at MacDill, Terry Montrose.

While he didn't have the official numbers from Tampa Police, Montrose said, "I do know it was an hour and a half coming from Gandy to the base."

But the time in the car didn't stop thousands of people -- 100,000 by Montrose's estimate -- from coming out to see the incredible aerial acrobatics, close passes, and, of course, the Thunderbirds.

"As long as it's fast and loud, I love it," said long-time AirFest attendee Connie Tapley.

"We moved down here in 2005, so we been coming since then," she said.

It's a tradition for her that was interrupted in November of 2011 thanks to the government sequester that Montrose said grounded all planes for the Air Force air shows.

"Matter of fact, we were in the middle of planning for it, and then sequester happened," he said.

It's something Connie had to work through.

"They grounded the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, that was so sad," she said.

But this year, the base turned to local funding.

"Without the chambers and without those guys doing what they did, you wouldn't have those hundred thousand people out here today," Montrose said.

In turning to the community for financial help to put on this year's AirFest at MacDill, Montrose said the event has been renamed.

When you look to the skies over MacDill Sunday or next year, you'll be watching the "Tampa Bay AirFest."


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